The island should do its best to prove accountability and transparency in order to dispel White House´s doubts on its capability to properly handle disaster relief funds.
The Puerto Rican government should take those signs of distrust as an opportunity to ensure, beyond any doubt, that its management and accountability structure are optimal.
This attitude has brought good results such as the recent agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the local government to authorize the disbursement of some $ 600 million to public and private entities for expenditures related to the emergency caused by Hurricane María.
The federal administration insisted on remarking that Puerto Rico received more aid than other jurisdictions to mitigate the disaster left by the September 2017 hurricane.
In Washington, federal funds estimated for Puerto Rico have are between $ 40 and $ 91 billion. An analysis by El Nuevo Día estimated $ 45 billion in aid, with less than $ 20 billion released so far.
Although experts warn that the situations are not necessarily comparable, the response contrasts with the aid offered to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. The impact in Puerto Rico was not limited to floods. Here, nearly 3,000 people died; hundreds of thousands were in the dark for months and the road infrastructure was severely impacted, among other serious damages. However, few homes on the island had federal flood insurance and very few also had private insurance. Estimates point that Texas received more than $ 49 billion in disaster relief funds after Harvey.
One year and a half after Hurricane María, it is urgent that the government of Puerto Rico strengthen its efforts to bring authorities in Washington a clear message about the aid received, management processes for the proper use of such funds and effectiveness.
US citizens in Puerto Rico do not deserve unequal treatment because it does not help to improve living conditions, forcing thousands of families to migrate, mainly to the mainland.
Recent studies agree that, after the emergency caused by the 2017 hurricanes, precariousness is now more severe, particularly in households with children under 18. Meanwhile, it is necessary to radically reform the power grid, which still highly depends on the federal funds committed.
The President of the United States, as well as the entire federal government, must be clear about all the elements related to the severe impact of the hurricane on the island and the urgency to position it to face future natural events. This urgent effort will result in less expensive responses because the island´s vulnerability will be minimized.
To that end, Governor Ricardo Rosselló has been seeking direct dialogue with the U.S. President and federal agencies related to the recovery. All sectors of the island and the diaspora should close ranks in this effort. Joining forces, from communities, the Third Sector, the private sector and partners in the United States, has already allowed the island to return to normal and show the Puerto Rican resilience.
Faced with this new test of credibility, Puerto Rico should do better than ever. Restoring credibility before the federal government, markets and its own citizens will determine the pace of recovery and the social and economic boost Puerto Rico deserves.